Wayne Rooney felt Derby County’s first-half showing in their 1-0 Sky Bet Championship loss at Bristol City cost them dearly on Saturday afternoon.
Derby started well at Ashton Gate and enjoyed long spells with the ball, but they fell behind to Alex Scott’s 16th minute strike after he was first to a loose ball on the edge of the Rams’ penalty area.
Former Derby striker Chris Martin spurned a good chance to double City’s lead in a spell where Rooney’s side had to defend resiliently to keep the home side at bay.
Rooney made a double change at the break with strikers Colin Kazim-Richards and Luke Plange, for his senior bow, coming on for Liam Thompson and Jason Knight and attacking midfielder Ravel Morrison was also introduced into the action midway through the second half.
Derby offered more of an attacking threat as they chased a leveller but were unable to turn their spells of possession into clear chances.
Curtis Davies headed a corner wide narrowly off target while Morrison dragged a late effort wide of Dan Bentley’s goal as the Rams tasted defeat on the road.
Rooney was firm in his assessment that Derby’s first half showing left them with plenty to do and while they improved after the interval and asked questions of the hosts, they left themselves with too much to do.
Talking to RamsTV after the final whistle at Ashton Gate, Rooney said: “I am obviously disappointed.
“I think in the first half it just wasn’t us. I can’t put my finger on the performance in the opening 45 minutes and it’s cost us the game.
“I thought we had a good reaction in the second half, we made the two substitutions at half time because we made it difficult for ourselves and it could have been more.
“We weren’t picking up second balls, the whole first half was something I didn’t like if I’m honest and we know we have set higher standards than that.
“We changed the shape in the second half and I felt it was better. We were pushing to score but we just couldn’t create that clear chance on goal.
“Everything was better in the second half. I thought the intensity was better, the composure on the ball was better and it was just in that final third trying to get that clear opportunity on goal, we just didn’t quite get it.
“The crosses into the box have to be better. We had two big lads up front so when we get into good areas out wide, we have to really value that more and put a good delivery in.”
He added: “Even though we lost the game, I felt we could have got a point in the end and we have to be better. Details of the game have to be better and all over the pitch we have to improve.”
Rooney opted to make a change in goal for the clash with the Robins with Ryan Allsop returning to the side in place of Kelle Roos.
Allsop impressed in a run of four successive starts in late September and early October before he was sidelined due to illness and Roos returned between the posts.
Discussing the change, Rooney said: “It’s always difficult when you change your goalkeeper.
“I felt today was the right time for Ryan to play. He’s been pushing Kelle in training, pushing really hard and I feel he deserved his chance.”
Plange’s progression to the first team has come after an impressive first half of the season for Derby’s Under-23s.
The former Arsenal scholar has been in good form in front of goal, scoring six times in ten appearances in Premier League 2 - Division 1, and has played a key role in their recent five-match unbeaten run.
Rooney said: “Luke is a fantastic young player with an appetite for the game and deserved to be with us.
“I’m not bringing these players in to make a point, I’m not bringing them to be a number, they are here because I feel they deserve to be part of the squad.
“Like today, if there is an opportunity where I feel they can have an impact on the game, then they will come on and I thought Luke did well.”
Derby will have a full week on the training ground ahead of their next Championship fixture, which will see the Rams host Blackpool at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday 11th December (3pm kick-off).